These questions about repairing cracks in apartment walls have been answered by Flavia Ger of Ace Body Corporate Management and Tony Johnson of Horner Management.
Question: A few lot owners have cracks in their apartment walls. We want this investigated quickly, but the Strata Manager has suggested we wait until the AGM.
There are 90cm pencil wide cracks on the slab concrete outside of my fence, in common area which adjoin my walls and I have requested our body cooperation investigate. I’ve asked for a structural engineer to examine if the foundation is ok and repair the damaged slab as soon as possible, as there are 200cm long cracks on my internal walls and the gyprock ceilings. The unit next to me also has the same problems with cracks in their apartment walls.
The strata manager wants to wait until our next AGM which is another 10 months. I think the problem needs to be addressed quickly so the other owners and I are going to call a meeting.
The strata manager has put down an agenda saying that if the cracks in apartment walls are caused by general movement, I have to pay the structural engineer’s costs and the repair cost of the damaged slab and the foundation.
Is it the lot owner’s responsibility to repair the damage foundation?
Answer: Before engaging a structural engineer, I would recommend you speak to your strata manager to organise a building inspector to check the cracks in the apartment walls and provide their recommendations.
It is unclear if your corporation is governed by the Strata Titles Act 1988 or Community titles Act 1996.
In a Strata corporation / community strata scheme, the corporation is responsible for the maintenance and repairs of the common areas.
In a community scheme, the owner is responsible for the maintenance.
If your corporation is a part of a Strata scheme, then the corporation will be responsible for maintenance (roof, guttering, external walls and foundations) unless there is a specific resolution made regarding work benefitting individual units/ cost limits.
Before engaging a structural engineer, I would recommend you speak to your strata manager to organise a building inspector to check the cracks in the apartment walls and provide their recommendations.
A building inspector will determine whether an engineer’s report is necessary as some cracks in the walls may not signal major structural issues, for example, vertical cracks. These types of wall cracks may only be superficial in nature. Horizontal cracks can signal other structural issues with foundations/ footings etc.
Having a building inspector advise that a problem exists may compel the corporation members / strata manager to act sooner and to engage an engineer.
This report will be at a cost to the strata corporation if the areas being inspected are common property areas.
Once the structural engineer provides the report with the recommendations, further quotes will need to be organised to undertake the repair work.
The Annual General Meeting is the best time to hold discussions on maintenance and other important matters.
If the building inspector recommends major structural work of an engineer to inspect, then an Extraordinary general meeting may be called to discuss this issue (also the costs for obtaining the report etc.). Alternatively, you can work in conjunction with the management committee members to obtain quotes / engineer costings etc. and then call a meeting to talk about the repairs.
This post appears in Strata News #217.
Question: Are cracks in apartment walls up to me as a lot owner to repair? I don’t mind repainting, but I believe any damage under paintwork should be claimed against building insurance.
I live in a block of units in South Australia. Cracks have been appearing in my internal brickwork for a while now, which can only be attributed to external movement.
Our strata managers are telling me that any internal damage is my responsibility, but I believe my responsibility in regards to cracks in apartment walls stops with the paintwork, and any damage under paintwork is building insurance. Can you clarify this for me?
I don’t have a problem repainting but I do not agree that I should fix the cracks in apartment walls. I believe that is a building insurance claim.
Answer: In basic terms your Manager is quite right.
This is an important question which is not merely aesthetic but could require a varying degree of maintenance. I am working on the assumption that your unit is in a strata complex and not a Community Title.
Whilst it would be difficult for me to give a detailed response without knowing the group and the degree of the cracking, in basic terms your Manager is quite right.
External cracking is the responsibility of the Strata Corporation whilst internal cracking to patch and paint is the responsibility of the unit Owner. The cracking we are referring to, however, in making this statement, assumes that the cracking is minor, perhaps hairline cracks or worse, but still standard cracking which occurs due to basic building movement.
Some areas in South Australia, of course, are more prone to building movement due to reactive soils in the area. In these areas, it is common for some units to form cracks seasonally. Another cause for movement and cracking could be the level of watering undertaken on the common and subsidiary grounds, or tree roots.
If you are referring to large cracks which could be a structural issue or a crack which can be seen both internally and externally, allowing weather elements or sunlight to get into the unit, this could well become a Strata Corporation matter and may require investigation into any underlying cause, such as stormwater problems. This may require assessment by a Plumber or even an Engineer to determine the cause and the actions required to remedy (stormwater replacement or underpinning). These matters would be a Strata collective matter to consider.
It would be well worth discussing with other Owners/ Residents to determine whether or not other units are (or have experienced) cracking and to what extent. Generally, small cracks to paint and plaster internally are considered an owners responsibility but cracks to the bricks work and structural walls would be looked at by the Corporation. This does depend on work carried out by your group in the past, so your Strata Manager would have a better idea on the history of this.
This post appears in Strata News #179.
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This article is not intended to be personal advice and you should not rely on it as a substitute for any form of advice.